What started as an obligation has become one of the prime aspects that define the future of work. Hybrid work, something that picked up pace during the Covid-19 pandemic, is here to stay, despite a rising demand to go back to the in-person work setting. One of the key points to attract and retain the new generation of talent at present is – hybrid work with flexible timings.
This phenomenon is not new, despite common belief. The move towards remote work had gained steady popularity even before the pandemic. The ability to utilise human resource capabilities across borders and engage a global workforce on different platforms has been a way for firms to improve operationally as well as strategically and make more optimal decisions.
The possible lack of structure, team spirit, collaboration and a sense of belonging as potential shortfalls were being continuously worked on.
How to create sustainable hybrid work environments
To successfully lead a hybrid team, it is necessary to understand the positive and negative aspects that hybrid working can bring to the employee. It is also important to underline how different techniques and approaches can help reduce the negative effects of hybrid work and deeply understand how to reduce setbacks and improve the well-being of the individual.
During a seminar, ESCP Professor Markus Albers explained how various aspects of hybrid working could manifest in three main categories: bricks, bytes and behaviour.
Bricks refer to the manner in which the office is structured. Open space environments for example, while improving speed of communication, could bring the individual under a constant sense of pressure. Establishing clear plans for the design of the workplace is thus vital, even in a hybrid setting.
Bytes, on the other hand, refer to the technological tools that help employees to work and collaborate. Being in a perennial state of collaboration could create bottlenecks while doing individual tasks.
And finally, Behaviour refers to the culture inside the company, including employee well-being and engagement. By being always connected, the distance between work and private life becomes narrower and an employee could feel pressured to work whenever they are free. Isolation could also impact their mental health, productivity and motivation.
Peer support groups for employee wellbeing
Inmagine, a Malaysian company working as a premium stock imagery agency that uses modern tools such as AI analytics, incorporated an initiative for improving employee well-being and thus overall productivity and motivation levels. They serve as a great example to shape Behaviour in a hybrid work environment. So, how does it work?
As part of their onboarding process, employees are allocated to support groups based on the results of a personality test. The groups are managed by an HR leader. It starts as a simple WhatsApp group but can develop into afterworks and offline meetings. In these groups, employees can share and discuss issues that bother them, in a safe space without being judged, and HR can easily provide support arrangements. There is a possibility in the future to extend such peer group platforms for other activities such as creative thinking, employee feedback systems and problem solving.
This initiative places the employees’ safety and well-being as a top priority, in times when mental health is often overlooked at work. It adapts to a hybrid work environment as the peer support groups are both online and offline.Markus Albers
The latest research has shown the success of this kind of initiative in helping reduce absenteeism and lack of motivation. Through early identification and access to helpful resources, employee morale can be improved through recognition that their employer cares about their well-being, which leads to healthier rates of employee retention and engagement.
Most companies have seen a decrease in sick leaves after implementing peer support groups or other engagement initiatives in the recent past. It signals a positive message across the professional world, “we are a strong employer brand with a proactive focus on creating a purposeful workplace with a balance between personal and professional lives”.
The future of work is based on an analysis of the bricks, bytes and behaviour framework
The WhatsApp group case is an apt example of the efforts to utilise the hybrid work environment while balancing engagement, mental health and overall organisational performance.
Similar efforts are being carried out in several organisations, which signals a permanent move towards a hybrid working arrangement. The long term acceptance, however, might vary across sectors involving higher interpersonal engagements like banking and consulting.
The changing state of the economy and the potential decline in job supply below demand, could be another factor that pushes competitive folks back to those office cubicles.
With more long-term research on the effects on employee engagement, we can arrive at a better understanding of the true impact of this work arrangement. Other phenomena like ‘Quiet quitting’ and ‘side jobs’ could be important factors to consider when deciding on hybrid work regulations.
We predict new human resource measures will be essential, not just for improving employees’ work experience and engagement but also to ensure focus on the organisational mission and goals.Vihaan Purohit
How the world of work embraces this flexibility in a disciplined and responsible manner, remains to be seen.